Sunday, November 17, 2013

At the Banya

There on Neglinnaya
behind the carved doors
of Sandunovskie 
on a slab of cold marble--

She splayed her mottled
brawn and tossed 
a wood-handled brush 
in my direction--

Harder, harder! she screeched,
while I tentatively explored
the massive vistas
of this assemblage of Woman.

She told me the stories of each of her war scars,
how once she'd screamed her way en route
from engine to caboose, knife in hand,
evading rape at the hands of her countrymen.

This was a dynamo. My jaw jammed open
and I followed my new luminary
to the dressing room, avoiding the sight of my
scrawny limbs in a 19th century mirror.

She eased her torpedoes into their silos,
brassieres and petticoats layer on layer,
topped off solidly with a belted brown dress,
an imposing bit of stalinist-era architecture.

Years later, looking back, I wondered if
her bravado was yet another of those layers,
designed to protect the memory of her younger self-- 
that slender, terrified girl concealed in the center

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